By Sam Tobin
LONDON (Reuters) - Collapsed British energy supplier Bulb's acquisition by Octopus Energy was delayed on Friday after rival suppliers including E.ON and British Gas raised concerns about the deal's approval.
Bulb, which had around 1.5 million domestic customers, was one of the largest energy suppliers to collapse last year due to soaring wholesale gas and electricity prices.
It was placed into a government-funded special administration regime in November 2021 to ensure customers would not face supply disruption and their credit balances would be protected.
The British government’s business department approved a deal for Octopus Energy to buy Bulb last month, which also needed to be approved by the High Court.
Judge Anthony Zacaroli refused to approve the deal on Friday after lawyers representing E.ON, British Gas and Scottish Power argued that Bulb’s administrators’ application should be adjourned.
Richard Fisher, representing Bulb’s administrators, told the court that the energy suppliers were “commercial competitors” and that they should bring a separate legal challenge if they wished to oppose the deal’s approval.
He added that the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has approved Octopus’ takeover and that there was “a sufficient commercial urgency to justify” approving the deal on Friday.
But Zacaroli said he disagreed with the administrators on the “level of urgency” and said other energy suppliers “should be afforded at least some time to consider their position”.
An E.ON spokesperson said: “Naturally we are pleased at today’s result which decided that adjournment is the right course of action so further details can be made available and all interested parties have the opportunity to examine the details of this proposed transaction.”
British Gas owner Centrica declined to comment. Scottish Power did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Sam Tobin; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)